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Evaluation of the use of blog posts as a method of assessment for AN300: 'Advanced Theory in Social Anthropology' (2016-2017)

Walker, Harry and Chatzigavriil, Athina (2017) Evaluation of the use of blog posts as a method of assessment for AN300: 'Advanced Theory in Social Anthropology' (2016-2017). The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Abstract

This report is an evaluation of the use of weekly blog posts as a new method of assessment for the course AN300: ‘Advanced Theory in Social Anthropology’, in the in the year 2016-2017. This was the first time that the blogs were used. The pilot received funding from the Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI) unit. This report is based on feedback received from students and teachers – in particular through a focus group discussion held at the end of Lent Term 2017. In general, the trial can be considered a success. AN300 is a third year-course in which students engage closely with whole books, rather than journal articles, and connect these to other literature they have encountered during their degree. As such, it is sometimes described as an advanced reading group. This makes it ill suited to exams as a mode of assessment. The blogs, by contrast, allowed students to develop their own ideas about the books they were reading as they went along. The posts that resulted were often highly original and creative. Students appreciated the opportunity the blogs provided to be more experimental with their ideas and arguments, and less formal in their writing, and to work in a medium other than an essay or exam. It was also clear that having to produce weekly posts encouraged many students to engage more closely with the readings than they otherwise might have. This was particularly evident in the high quality of class discussions. Having to write a post prior to class gave students an opportunity to critically reflect on the readings, and to bring to the class ideas they had developed in their blogs. At the same time, the trial of blog posts was met with a substantial degree of frustration and anxiety from students. Much of this feeling was a result of this being the first year blogs were tried in the department. Many of these third-year students, at the pointy end of their degree, felt they were being ‘treated like guinea pigs’, as one put it. Some of this anxiety no doubt stems from other factors only indirectly related to the blogs – concerning, for example, the more general demands of their degree. But students also expressed frustration with specific features of the blog assessment: with what many students perceived as insufficient guidance on what they were expected to produce; with what some felt was a lack of rigour and fairness in how the blogs were graded; with what some saw as inadequate feedback on their posts, especially at the start of the course; with what many considered an unreasonably heavy and anxietyinducing workload; with what they felt was a lack of clarity regarding the length of blog posts; and with what some saw as an unfair regime relating to lateness and extensions. Additional concerns were raised in feedback received from the course lecturers. Chief among these was the heavy workload placed on the GTAs responsible for marking the blog posts. Instructors were also disappointed that students did not in the end comment on each other’s posts as much as was intended – meaning that the exercise did not fully realise its potential to facilitate collaborative learning. Some suggestions for responding to the various concerns raised by students and lecturers – and thereby improving the running of the assessment in future years – are offered in the discussion section of this report.

Item Type: Monograph (Report)
Official URL: http://www.lse.ac.uk/home.aspx
Additional Information: © 2017 The Authors
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Research centres and groups > Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI)
Date Deposited: 12 May 2017 11:52
Last Modified: 12 May 2017 13:26
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/76691

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